The feel of the theatre is small and we're surrounded by the smell of floral soap, which should give you a clear indication of the age demographic around us: it’s the opening night of Calendar Girls!
Writer Tim Firth clearly felt he had unfinished business with the play version The Girls which struggled to win over audiences in the past, resulting in the productions closing. He has joined forces once more with Gary Barlow, who wrote the score, working this time to use the songs as ‘special moments that you achieve in a musical’, effectively using the music to enhance the story.
The sunflower is a key symbol throughout the production, representing hope and happiness. John notes ‘it’s not because they look like the sun, it’s because they always find it, which is an admirable life lesson’ - a guiding theme of the play.The characters use the calendar to focus on something positive, although their happiness and hope is clouded in grief.Casey's singing is superb, particularly in Kilimanjaro, where the lyrics contrast the everyday challenges which surround her, against larger scale ones, where ‘there is nothing in
The calendar-shooting scene was delivered both comically and sensitively. We are still unsure if two of the cast accidentally or deliberately gave the audience a flash of their breasts! It was wonderful how the audience collectively became another character: at the point on stage when they disrobed, each woman in turn received a round of very supportive applause, and the cast were incredible at helping each other prepare onstage.
My companion and I were both impressed by the younger actors, particularly Danny Hawker (Danny) and Isabel Caswell (Jenny), both of whom delivered a sterling performance, giving their senior counterparts a real run for their money. I was informed there will be a cast change imminently, so for a chance to see this line up for the last time here in
The pacing was not quite there: we felt the story got lost at times and dragged on in the first half. If parts of the story had been more concise, the audience might have connected more deeply with the character John, which I felt was lacking. Perhaps this was reflective of how quickly the disease took hold of him so that we were deliberately left, like the other characters, focusing on the positives. The play certainly delivers in illustrating how we can triumph over adversity and come through it positive, and leaves its audience with hope.
I rarely join in a standing ovation, unless the performance is exceptional, the last time being for Phantom of the Opera. Knowing that royalties from this tour go to the charity Bloodwise, it was definitely worth me getting out of my seat to stand together with the audience to applaud the cast - for being courageous and laying it all bare, continuing the work of the original Calendar Girls and keeping John Baker’s memory and legacy alive. The real life Calendar Girls have currently raised over £5million for Bloodwise - that in itself is something quite exceptional and worthy of a standing ovation.